Kolkata: The Durbar Mahila Samanway committee’s Durga Puja was inaugurated on Sunday by the Minister of State for women and child welfare, Dr Sashi Panja. This is the third consecutive year that the sex workers organization, Durbar is organizing the Puja in Sonagachi, North Kolkata.
The inaugural ceremony was also graced by the founder of Durbar, Dr Samarjit Jena and other dignitaries.
NewsGram talked with sex worker Rita Roy and the secretary of Durbar Mahila Samanway Committee Bharati Dey, to know their views on their Durga Puja.
Arnab Mitra: How will you enjoy on these five days of Durgotsav?
Rita Roy: Like the other people in the society we will also entertain ourselves having tasty dishes, new clothes and with cultural programs. But there is a difference… our enjoyment starts and ends in this red light area and we cannot refrain from work, as every day we have to earn to serve our belly.
AM: Do you like to spend time with your family members if you get a chance?
RR: Not me, everyone likes to spend time with their family members. My family knows everything and are very much dependent upon my earnings. But thanks to our society and its mindset, I never dared to meet them. I didn’t even see my parents’ faces in 20 years.
AM: What is the role of Durbar in improving the condition of sex workers?
RR: Dr Samarjit Jana’s struggle along with all the other sex workers of Durbar to give us a stand has helped in providing us a kind of social status. Before Durbar, sex workers were treated like dogs, but now we have our own bank, our children are going to school and we are living happily.
AM: Do you see yourself as a durga?
RR: Yes, people worship Maa Durga as she saved thousands of lives by killing Mahisashur. Similarly, every night we kill the lust of greedy men and save the lives of our sisters and daughters.
In an interaction with the secretary of Durbar, Bharati Dey, she said, “The sex workers are very happy with this puja.” But she is dissatisfied with the court’s verdict of not giving them permission to organize Durga Puja. “If the court won’t allow them to do puja next year, they will stay aside from organising Durga Pujo.”
On the question of ITPA Act and social respect, Bharati Dey said, “The government should immediately withdraw the ITPA Act and make prostitution legalised in India. That way, the sex workers will get their deserved social respect as they are working to serve a basic need of the society.”
The act of prostitution is going on since ages and it’s still a surviving occupation for many. For lots of girls, it’s a harsh reality but there is very little that they can do about it. Many of the girls are forced into prostitution and some have to choose it because they have no other place to go. Although, prostitution is illegal in India but it is certainly prevalent in our society.
The Land of Kama Sutra
Due to India’s legacy in sex and prostitution, there are some of the largest and infamous red light areas where prostitution is a way of living. Such a place automatically becomes a hot spot for many other criminal activities too. According to a report, there is almost 10 million sex worker in India. The prime clientele of prostitutes includes migrant workers or people who are staying away from their home.
There are many cases where a girl turns into prostitution just for the sake of raising some money for their respective families. Some girls are lured into good jobs in big cities and then they are been sold off to pimps and brokers at different brothels. The news of abduction of girls are very common in India and then no one knows whereabouts of them. In very few cases, the police are able to locate the victim.
Even in some cases, parents sell their babies to earn some quick bucks for a very paltry sum. The red light areas in India are the only means of keeping the body and soul together for many of the sex workers.
Take a look at the list of such red light areas situated in India:
The place Sonagachi holds the title of Asia’s largest red light area which is located in Kolkata. Sonagachi is a mysterious place in itself. As per a survey, this place is home to almost 11,000 sex workers. The harsh reality of Sonagachi red light area is very hard to swallow. The Oscar-winning documentary, Born into Brothels, has brought out the very reality of this place.
Kamathipura stands second, only after Sonagachi in terms of the number of sex workers working at a place. It is also the oldest red light area of Mumbai. The dilapidated condition of this place will send shivers to anyone visiting here for the very first. The place also houses a beedi factory in its surrounding been owned by women. The place is quite famous due to its visitors like Haji Mastan and Dawood Ibrahim.
Kamthipura is also known by the name of Grant Road’s Red light Area. But initially, Kamthipura was known as Lal Bazaar because of its workers. There the word Kamathis means workers and hence the place got its first name. The number of sex workers has reduced to only a few thousand as compared to when it was started.
Budhwar Peth, Pune
Budhwar Peth shortly follows the Sonagachi and Kamathipura in the prostitution business. There are expected five thousand of sex workers working in the shabby lanes of Budhwar Peth.Other than prostitution, the place is also known for being a hub for electronic goods and books.
The shady lights of this red light area make it more difficult to survive and lack of law enforcement agencies adds more agony to it.
G.B. Road, Delhi
Almost every person who has ever visited Delhi must have come across the name of G.B. Road. The place is Delhi’s largest red light area and is quite famous for the hundreds of brothels along the streets.
The place also houses many vehicle parts, wholesale dealers. So, anyone who knows about this place is not necessarily related to prostitution.
Chaturbhujsthan is a red light area in Muzaffarpur and interestingly, this place is located right next to an old temple. People believe that this setup has been in continuation since ages and thus it makes sense as to why prostitution is still going strong.
Itwari is a quite popular place among the sex workers and the criminals in Nagpur. In most of the red light areas, criminal activities and prostitution go side by side and this place is no different. The place is also known by the name Ganga Jamuna.
This red light area is intact since ancient times and this place is more like a village rather than a locality. But in the past couple of years, this place is seen losing its sheen due to lack of the number of sex workers. The village is home to many cheap brothels been run by the locals.
Goa being a holiday destination is supposed to cater the prostitution business and getting customers over here is not that difficult. Baina is a well-known red light area in Goa. Here, pimps bring the customer from bus stands, railway stations and markets, after that the deal is been made.
Although in 2004, the government raided all the properties of Baina beach and tried to root out the prostitution business but still it’s prevalent.